The Art of Fan Fiction

I’ve had a busy couple of days which has kept me away from the blog, but I am pleased to say that I’ve been writing.

On Friday, I went into Toronto to be filmed. A group of students for Ryerson university (I believe) were working on a production tentatively entitled “The Art of Fan Fiction”. I believe I was able to give them some good material. Fan fiction has been very important to me, ultimately leading me into the writing career I now enjoy. And let’s not forget that it was through fan fiction that I met Erin, and indeed a number of people who are very important in my life.

There were a lot of good questions, but one of the more interesting ones was about the impact the Internet had had on the hobby, and if that made it more legitimate or less. I dropped out of the active fan fiction scene before the big fan fiction websites took root (like, but I was active during a period where technology was changing things. My first fan fiction magazine was produced using a dot matrix printer, cut and pasted pictures and a photocopier. It wasn’t a Gestetner, but it was primitive compared to what followed. Within four years, we were using laser printers and desktop publishing software and, by the time I produced the :Trenchcoat Farewell Project:, electronic printing and CD-ROMs.

There has been, over the past quarter century, a democratization of the creative process. What used to be open just to those who were particularly dedicated is now available to anyone with an Internet connection and an ability to type, and sometimes not even the latter. Yes, the editors appear to have gone by the wayside in the rush to electronic fan fiction, but does that make the medium less legitimate? No. Even in the early days of fan fiction we were describing individuals who were writing, not in expectation of payment but for the sheer love of their craft. That hasn’t changed. It’s simply multiplied.

Filming my segments proved a lengthy process. The questions were thorough and numerous. We first shot material inside BakkaPhoenix books — the legendary fantasy and science fiction bookstore where I myself spent a lot of time as a child bulking up my sci-fi (and Doctor Who) collection. I posed beside my professional novels, read a piece from the :Trenchcoat Farewell Project: and then there was a lot of filming of me walking around the store, walking up to the store, and walking into the store. These sorts of action shots always seem weird to film, but apparently you need them to break up the monotony of just standing there, talking.

Finally, we headed out to Trinity Bellwoods park and sat on a windswept park bench, while I answered a few more questions and read from Fathom Five. Despite the length and the weather, I had a good time, and these people were getting deep into their material. The Art of Fan Fiction promises to be an interesting documentary, and I for one am looking forward to seeing it.

Another highlight of the day was a visit to the Black Camel Cafe, which I clued into while researching this post here. Hearing the rave reviews about this sandwich shop across the street from Rosedale subway station, I decided I just had to check it out, so I stopped in for a late lunch.

The place is obviously designed for take-out. The shop was small and the places to sit were limited to a half-dozen stools by a narrow marble counter, and a small table for two. Fortunately, I arrived well after the lunch rush. The owner was happy to walk me through the process: I selected the meat from the menu (among other things, beef brisket and pulled pork) and then the condiments that went with it. He told me that the most popular combination for beef brisket (my choice) was the Black Camel’s signature barbecue sauce and caramelized onions, so I tried that.

The sandwich came wrapped like a Harvey’s hamburger but ate like a sloppy joe. The meat was tender and juicy and perfectly complemented by the barbecue sauce and the onions. The Portuguese bun was tough enough to hold together against the saucy middle, but it was a near thing. Truly a dream sandwich, and I will be returning to try the pulled pork. Probably with friends.

Dream King Update

Last year at this time I boasted that The Night Girl had passed 20,000 words, this after the project had stalled out for a couple of years (and, looking back, let me just say: I was able to keep Scooter! Yay!). The story began back in 2003, after all. Today, I approach 18,000 words on The Dream King’s Daughter.

My fastest pace from pen-to-paper to complete-first-draft is four months for The Unwritten Girl back in 2001. I’ve not yet hit four months for The Dream King’s Daughter, but I won’t be making that deadline. Still, I’m happy. I’m quite pleased at the energy and momentum that this story has been able to achieve, even if a lot of material is in the first draft stage and will have to be thoroughly edited.

Case in point: I’ve set much of this story in Saskatchewan — a province that I’ve not had the fortune of visiting, yet. I’ve seen pictures, I’ve watched television shows and I’ve read books, so I’m getting my atmosphere from that, but it probably shouldn’t surprise locals to learn that I’ve gotten and am getting things completely wrong. For example: wheat. It’s waving in the distance in almost every scene. Fields are rippling like waves in the ocean. I’ve seen wheat fields here in Ontario, so I know how they move, but I’ve never stood inside one.

And now I learn that wheat stalks generally grow no higher than four feet tall. For critical scenes where the characters have to hide among the wheat, or disappear into the wheat, I’m picturing corn, which can grow higher than a man’s head, making for tense action scenes of cat-and-mouse seen in such films as North by Northwest. Transform the corn field into a wheat field, and suddenly Cary Grant looks like he’s wading, and that crop duster has a clear shot.


I promise, I am going to try to visit Saskatchewan at some point before I submit The Dream King’s Daughter to publishers. I suspect nothing conveys the atmosphere of the place better than visiting it.

In the meantime, perhaps those critical hide-in-the-crops scenes could happen in corn fields anyway. I know Saskatchewan is not Iowa and that it grows more wheat than corn, but I suppose there should be a cornfield somewhere. Isn’t there? Isn’t there?!

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